On top of Red Deer College gaining University status, RDC has now taken extra measures to ensure that the needs of Indigenous education have been met.
RDC will join only six other institutions in Alberta in signing the Colleges and Institute Canada Indigenous Education Protocol and only 57 institutions have signed the agreement in Canada.
The protocol is a commitment to improving the education standards to better fit Indigenous culture, but also provide support and services to them as needed. It is an effort to make education and institution more inclusive to a culture of Canada’s founding people.
“We know that if you have a post-secondary education you are more likely to succeed, get a better job and all those kinds of things but we need to understand first what the needs of our First Nation students are and then provide that opportunity at our institution,” said Joel Ward, RDC’s President and CEO.
The protocol has been a goal of his for a while but when he considered signing it in the past, he did not believe that Red Deer College was quite ready to commit to the seven key principles involving the agreement and meet the objectives of the protocol.
“When we put this protocol on the agenda I was on the board of governors and I remember thinking ‘we’re not ready,’ and this was I am thinking five, six, seven years ago. When we came back from that, we started on a journey in this institution to be able to say ‘we want to sign, but we first have to make sure we can live up to those seven principles,’ and today the board and the college are committed to those principles and we’ve made tremendous progress already in living up to them.”
Institutions that sign the protocol agree to meet the seven objectives below according to the CICan website:
- Commit to making Indigenous education a priority.
- Ensure governance structures recognize and respect Indigenous peoples.
- Implement intellectual and cultural traditions of Indigenous peoples through curriculum and learning approaches relevant to learners and communities.
- Support students and employees to increase understanding and reciprocity among Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.
- Commit to increasing the number of Indigenous employees with ongoing appointments throughout the institution, including Indigenous senior administrators.
- Establish Indigenous-centred holistic services and learning environments for learner success.
- Build relationships and be accountable to Indigenous communities in support of self-determination through education, training and applied research.
As a result, class curriculums will be changed to consider indigenous perspective even in courses that may not cater to that way of thinking.
“We are still a European based curriculum and I think with an infusion of an Indigenous perspective I think it makes learning better for all of our students,” said Ward.
For Gilles Allard, a member of Red Deer College’s Board of Governors this was something he had been looking forward to for quite some time.
“This is history in the making. It’s a long time coming, certainly but I have come here and realized way back in the days when we were lobbying governments and such and certain institutions such as this to get on board with the history and the Indigenous uniqueness and diversity.”
On a number of fronts, signing the protocol and gaining greater inclusivity has been a fight worth fighting for quite a long time. Now that progress is being made and will continue to be made, a greater understanding of people can be achieved.